I've just returned from annual buying trip to the Sri Lanka gem markets with nice sapphires, spinels and garnets. It's always cool to be one of the few Westerners to visit these markets where I get to see great stones, with many of them new to the market. As expected, there are plenty of sapphires to choose from, but there are always interesting stones such as cat's eyes, alexandrite and rare stones like sinhalite and andalusite. In addition to locally-sourced stones I also see many from East Africa, as Sri Lankan buyers purchase rough in those countries for cutting in Sri Lanka.
There were some opportunities to explore the area around the gem markets, so I saw the traditional blowpipe heating, gemcutting and rough stone markets. As a cutter, the rough stones were fascinating, but since rough stone exports from Sri Lanka are prohibited to protect the local cutting industry I couldn't bring any home.
I was also honored to be invited to speak at the 2016 International Gemology Academy conference this year, with my presentation on Gemstone Photography Techniques. The presentation was very well received, and I made many important contacts as a result. My broker tells me I'm now famous in the local community! I can't verify that, but I was introduced to several industry contacts including some dealers in Colombo that specialize in world-class sapphires. If you've ever wanted a top sapphire (like the 10 ct sapphire shown below) please let me know - I can probably find it for you.